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Photo and story by Maj. Timothy G. Burke, Airbridge Operations Officer, 108ARW
TAG at Operation Jump Start

A significant date for the 108th Air Refueling Wing quietly passed by last year. July 1, 2006 marked the second anniversary for the 108th's involvement with the North East Tanker Task Force (NETTF), which was formed two years earlier to create an “Airbridge” across the North Atlantic to support Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.

The NETTF, or Bravo Alert as it is called, is operated by Guard members who have volunteered for active duty to support round-the-clock aerial refueling operations. These volunteers take turns being on alert to fly refueling missions for aircraft supporting the Global War on Terrorism. True to the spirit of the original Minutemen, the aircrew and maintainers are ready for the mission within minutes, regardless of the hour or weather.

Missions have included the most challenging flights that have been assigned to any of the six units comprising the task force. These include formation refueling over the ocean, supporting detainee renditions, large force exercises and refueling special operations aircraft.

One crew even saved a mission when, after completing their original mission, they met up with another aircraft whose tanker broke and were able to fuel that aircraft also. On another occasion the TTF received a request to refuel two deploying aircraft that were desperately needed in theater. Within an hour maintenance provided the aircraft, crews volunteered, and all mission planning was completed for clearance authorities. This immediate response saved the mission as it was close to being cancelled due to lack of refueling assets.

Since being “stood up” the 108th Bravo Alert operation has almost doubled in size. The wing is the only unit of the six participating in the task force to increase its participation. The 108th Tanker Task Force operates as a selfsufficient entity with minimal impact on the wing's daily operations. This versatility has allowed the wing to refuel every Air Force cargo aircraft as well as a myriad of Air Force and Navy tactical aircraft.

The task force deployed overseas for the first time last November. The close of 2006 saw 30- months of continuous operations with impressive results. Since 2004 the task force has been assigned more than 700 refuelings and flown more than 325 missions; they have logged 1,000-plus flight hours and transferred almost 17.5 million pounds of jet fuel.

This is equivalent to being airborne for more than 42 days and, for an average car, more than 180,000 tanks of gas. None of this would be possible without the dedication and hard work of the maintainers and support troops. The Command Post provided non-stop command, control and communications capability.

The maintenance crews provide double, or when needed triple, the number of aircraft they are obligated to provide but also superior reliability matching or exceeding that of the most modern Air Force aircraft. Since the beginning, the maintenance reliability rate exceeded 95 percent; in 2006 that rate rose to 97 percent. Only five of 153 missions this past year were cancelled for mechanical reasons.

This accomplishment is even more amazing considering these aircraft are almost 50 years old. The importance of aerial refueling, and the contribution the NETTF has made, is evidenced by remarks by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley stating, “To be able to bridge the Atlantic, it’s the tanker.” And when an airlifter is refueled over the Atlantic, it is often a 108th tanker ensuring they get to where they’re needed.

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Volume 33 Number 1 Staff / Information
(c) 2006 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs